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I’d like to think that I have the best of intentions. I’d bet you do too. But here are the facts – intentions, in this form, don’t do much.
We know this, right? Our loved ones don’t feel so loved if we meant to call them. Our body and mind don’t feel refreshed if we wanted to get more sleep this week.
I used to note all these wonderful plans in my head: to send a thank-you or sympathy note to someone, bringing a meal to a person in a time of need, or simply offering a helping hand.
I can’t even guess how many times I’d thought, “I want to see my extended family/college friends/coworkers more”, followed by plans in my head to schedule a dinner or night out soon. I would visualize this overdue night out; what I would cook, the theme for table décor, the guest list … lots well-intended planning in my head. But my actions didn’t actually extend out in to the real world; I was rarely experiencing the end result of spending time with those people.
This aspect of my life shifted into action after a conversation with an elderly man in an airport last fall. I was sitting at a Delta gate, about to fly home from a weeklong conference in Florida; this sweet old man slid gingerly into the seat next to me.
At first, I did not pay him much attention, continuing to read by book without really noticing his presence. After a few minutes, I glanced towards him and noticed that he was writing in a small, well-worn journal. Upon turning my head, he looked at my, his eyes resting on mine, and smiled.
“I am writing out the things I did since yesterday that acted on my good intentions”.
His statement, the first of our conversation, had me smiling. “How beautiful!” I remarked, and asked how long he had been practicing this exercise of his.
He introduced himself as Roy. He had lived in the Southern United States for his entire life, retiring with his wife 15 years ago in Florida. He gently shared that she had passed away 2 years ago, at the age of 88.
Roy went on to tell me about his “follow through” journal. This journal, he explained, was prompted as he entered older age and began to lose some friends and loved ones. Roy recognized all these great intentions that he had, to do something with or for these people, but did not get around to taking action on them. A loved one would pass, and Roy would feel the pain and grief of not having followed through on these intentions.
Then one day, Roy found himself sitting down with a notebook, writing a list of the things he wanted to do with or for these loved ones as the ideas arose. From calling his younger brother, to fixing his neighbors front door, Roy wrote each intention along with a time that he wanted to complete each by. Every few days, he would update this journal with what he had accomplished.
Roy explained that in beginning this “follow through” journal, he and his brother chatted on the phone every Tuesday morning, discussing current life and memories. They did so for 8 years, growing closer than they had been in years, before his brother passed.
He described his 64 wonderful years of marriage to his wife, the last 10 years only getting better as Roy took action on his good intentions. Seeing his wife smile as he came home from morning walks with a bunch of wildflowers, picked from a patch down the road, is a vision that will never leave him, he told me. Those last 10 years of marriage were magical.
Roy and I chatted for only 30 minutes before we boarded our plane. It made me recognize that sometimes, actively listening to someone for only a short time can change your own life for good.
From that moment, Roy inspired to truly follow through with my good intentions. Mailing out notecards to people to express my thanks and gratitude. Setting aside an evening each month to connect and be present with two girlfriends. Giving myself a time each week to do something that makes me feel happy and rejuvenated. Making a dinner and including not only my extended family, but my daughters and their friends. Giving time and energy to the people I love.
Life is short, as we often hear; but we have the opportunity every day to live with intention. To take action. To give love to those around us, and to ourselves.
What is something you can do this week to take action on a good intention? Share in the comments below!